- Stone Academy in Connecticut allegedly profited millions of dollars while providing nursing students with inadequate coursework and clinical hours.
- Connecticut Attorney General William Tong filed a lawsuit, believing the civil damages awarded could cost millions.
- Eight nursing students filed a class action lawsuit claiming the school passed itself off as reputable while disregarding state regulators.
Stone Academy in Connecticut is another for-profit nursing school under scrutiny after taking advantage of nursing students. Three formerly accredited schools in Florida awarded fraudulent nursing diplomas costing nearly $114 million to students.
In July 2023, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong filed a lawsuit alleging Stone Academy closed three campuses, profited millions of dollars, and left hundreds of nursing students with inadequate education, unable to take their licensed practical nurse (LPN) licensing exam.
Connecticut’s Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Stone Academy
In February 2023, Stone Academy abruptly closed three campuses, affecting over 800 students. Among the issues named in the 36-page complaint were inappropriate coursework and undocumented clinical hours.
The closure also affects graduates who passed their exams and are practicing. They have been asked to complete a refresher course of eight hours of in-person skills reviews and 40 clinical hours. If the students do not agree, they may be subject to disciplinary action and an investigation into their licensure.
In 2022, Mark Scheinberg, founder and president of Goodwin University and once the owner of Stone Academy, was required to pay more than $1 million to settle a lawsuit accusing him of concealing loans from the college’s student loan default rate.
At the time, he was also forced to divest himself from the school, which was then held in trust and managed by his stepson, Joseph Bierbaum. Tong anticipates that the civil penalties could total millions of dollars, and he filed the complaint to also seek restitution for the Stone Academy students.
“Stone Academy promised hands-on training from industry leaders, and an education that would position students to become licensed practical nurses in less than two years. These were lies. This is textbook consumer deception — our evidence is unassailable, and we will get justice for Stone’s students,” said Attorney General Tong. “While students suffered from plummeting exam pass rates, disappearing clinical opportunities, and a dearth of qualified faculty, Stone’s owners got rich.”
Perry Rowthorn, former Connecticut Chief Deputy Attorney General, represents Stone Academy. In a statement, he called this a “baseless lawsuit” and said that the closure was ordered by the Office of Higher Education (OHE) so that the school was unable to “wind down in an orderly manner.”
“Remarkably, fully five months after Stone’s closure, OHE has still not organized a teach out …” Rowthorn said. “The agencies actually responsible for regulating Stone – OHE and the Department of Public Health (DPH) – have never substantiated the phantom regulatory violations alleged in the Attorney General’s lawsuit.”
Former Stone Academy Students Seek Justice
Connecticut paid for the audit conducted by an outside law firm. They found instructors in 28% of the classes lacked proper qualifications, and 76% of the clinical hours were missing documentation.
Stone Academy’s attorneys accused the state of improperly regulating the school and argued that student credits should count despite educational deficiencies. Many of the students were Hispanic and Black women who had taken out large loans and used their savings to cover the $30,000 tuition with the promise they would be eligible to become practicing LPNs.
The OHE arranged for eligible students to finish their degrees at other schools and encouraged those not eligible for the teach-out program to apply and enroll in other programs. The students will receive full tuition refunds, which cover only some of the loans. For many students, this amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.
In May, students filed a class action lawsuit naming the owners and trustees. In the formal complaint, eight students claimed that “up until its last date of operation, Stone Academy passed itself off as a reputable, viable, and well-established for-profit nursing school, all the while disregarding the instructions and warning of state regulators concerning its substandard programs.”
“Stone Academy sold all of these folks a ticket to a sinking ship,” said Attorney David Slossberg, from the law firm representing the students. “It’s bad enough that it creates such hardship, but the way that it was done is just inexcusable.”